What Was My IBS like as a non-Vegan? Is This Like Your IBS?

My IBS Symptoms Before I Went Vegan, When I was an Omnivore

IBS – Stomach and Intestinal Pain, Constipation and Diarrhea

As a little girl, I have a lot of memories of painful stomach cramps and a lot of memories of diarrhea or constipation.  In grade four I remember deciding not to chew Bubblicious gum, and not to buy candy at the store on my way home anymore because it gave me a terrible stomach ache.  I remember thinking that when I get a house I would need to have a pattern on the bathroom floor because that is what I would focus on – tracing the pattern with my eyes – to cope with the pain of diarrhea.

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At age twelve I recall milk and other dairy products started to give me painful and smelly gas and diarrhea.  I remember my uncle talking about healthy bowel movement frequency, going poo every day or two, I knew I was way off that because I would have diarrhea then get constipated, back and forth most of the time.  Often with days in between.

Chronic Acid Indigestion

In my 20’s I seemed to have constant acid indigestion, a feeling like my stomach and intestines were burning from acid.  It kept me awake at night.

Doctor’s Tests

I went for doctor’s tests, I had my runny stools analyzed, I had stomach and upper GI ultrasounds, they told me things looked normal and to avoid acidic foods like tomatoes –  really terrible advice, because tomatoes make me feel good.  I had the celiac blood test and it was negative, so I was not gluten intolerant.

To see what happened to my IBS symptoms when I started eating whole-foods plant-based vegan in 2013 read this post:

Eating Whole-Foods Plant-Based Vegan With IBS.

Treating IBS with a Gluten-Free Diet

In 1993 I became gluten-free anyways, I was still an omnivore at this point.  I was definitely an early adopter of a gluten-free diet, this was way before it was generally known about, it was not a cool thing to eat gluten-free.  Even though I didn’t officially have celiac disease, eating gluten-free seemed to give me some relief, but I was nowhere near cured.

My breakfast became brown rice and I made gluten-free muffins and breads with rice flour and other non wheat flours.  I ate a lot of potatoes and corn and had meat daily and a lot of eggs.  I was still lactose intolerant and off dairy.  Acid indigestion was still a major problem for me and now I felt weak and hungry much of the time.

IBS Related Suicidal Thoughts and Depression

I was becoming very thin, unsatisfied on a gluten-free diet, and I would have bad days when foods would go right through me.  I was eating “healthy” I thought: fruit, vegetables, potatoes, brown rice, eggs, meat, oil, barely any processed food.  I never had any blood in my stools, it was IBS and not Ulcerative Colitis.

I felt suicidal and depressed about my guts hurting every day.  I moved from Edmonton to Vancouver, Canada and gave up alcohol for 8 months because it made my stomach feel moderately better to not drink.  This was not helpful for my social life or mood and I was already stressed out about what I could or could not eat, so not drinking alcohol made me even more of a party pooper.

Going Off Birth Control and Using Digestive Enzymes and Probiotics to Treat IBS

In my late 20’s I discovered digestive enzyme pills with meals helped, but my guts were still very unpredictable and I was hesitant to eat at restaurants or to travel.  I suffered from the same uncomfortable symptoms I had always felt, slightly less often.

I got married in 2002 and went off the birth control pill, this made me feel much better.  There seemed to be a definite connection between the birth control hormones and my IBS.  I found probiotic pills and stopped taking digestive enzymes.  The probiotics capsules were quite helpful.  I took one or two or three a day.

Pregnancies and Inflamed Intestines

In 2004, when became pregnant with my first daughter I missed 4 weeks of work in the first trimester, due to a severe IBS flare-up that gave me intense digestive problems.  Luckily it was next to Christmas holidays.  The pregnancy definitely heightened my IBS.

In 2007, I was 34 . I had my second daughter and pregnancy with her was rough digestively speaking, but not as hard on me as my first.

I chose to have both my daughters with no anesthetic or painkillers – I knew I could handle pain since I had dealt with intense intestinal cramping so often for over 15 years by then – I was right and their births were not very hard on me.

Reintroduced Dairy and Gluten

After the birth of my second child, I was suddenly no longer lactose intolerant.  I started eating a moderate amount of dairy and gluten. Either hormones, or her blood in my system helped me out.  I discovered a high fibre cereal that kept me more regular.

At this point, in my late thirties, working full-time and raising my kids, I ate moderate gluten, some dairy and relied on probiotics and high fibre breakfast cereal, I drank alcohol on weekends and ate out carefully.  I seemed to have more stability, but I still had cramping, gas and diarrhea or constipation bi-weekly.

Random restaurant meals would trigger an IBS episode.

That’s a brief history of my IBS before I started to eat a whole-foods plant-based vegan diet

To see what happened to my IBS symptoms when I started eating whole-foods plant-based vegan in 2013 read this post:

Eating Whole-Foods Plant-Based Vegan With IBS.


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